Patriotic action film set to break China blockbuster record

A patriotic Chinese action film whose tagline is “whoever offends China will be hunted down wherever they are” is poised to become the country’s highest grossing film to date.

Wolf Warrior 2, which depicts a former elite People’s Liberation Army soldier defending Chinese citizens in Africa against bloodthirsty American-led mercenaries, grossed $161m at the weekend.

With a cumulative total of $470m after 11 days of release, the movie is on course to overtake Hong Kong comedy star Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid — which made $527m last year — as China’s top grossing film.

“We expect to see it passing the record on Tuesday,” said Jonathan Papish, a writer for China Film Insider, an industry news service. “I don’t think anyone expected it so soon.”

The film’s release comes just weeks after China opened its first overseas military base in the east African entrepôt of Djibouti to project its power on the continent, and its release was timed to coincide with a wave of patriotic celebrations marking the 90th anniversary of the PLA’s founding.

“The film is thick with nationalist sentiment, and contains many moving scenes,” said one reviewer on Chinese film website Mtime. “This film shows that China is becoming a world power,” wrote another.

Qi Qiu, 24, from Nanjing, said: “This is a patriotic popcorn film. Also, people haven’t really had any other good choices in the past two months.”

Wolf Warrior 2’s main appeal are its special effects and fight scenes, in the mould of Hollywood blockbusters such as Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, or Marvel’s Captain America.

The action sequences are punctuated by dialogue praising Chinese foreign policy and criticising western behaviour in Africa, while the film ends with a shot of a Chinese passport and the message that citizens are lucky to carry one as they will be protected abroad.

The film has achieved success despite not being released during the lunar new year, which is traditionally the peak period for China’s movie-goers.

China’s media regulator regularly halts releases of new foreign films in the summer to ensure that the domestic film industry generates more than half of the country’s annual box office revenues.

The film’s protagonist is played by director Wu Jing, who is a “true Chinese action hero”, said Mr Papish. “Before him Chinese people haven’t really had their own action hero to root for,” he added.

The film’s success will boost what had…

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